Was suing Napster users the biggest music screw up of all time?

Attacking file-sharing bigger cock-up than turning Beatles down

The record companies who forced file-sharing website Napster into bankruptcy in 2001 have been credited with the label of the music industry’s biggest “screw-up of all time” in a list compiled by Blender magazine.

The closure of the pioneering website beat Dick Rowe – the talent scout who famously turned away The Beatles – to the top spot in the poll.

Many see the record companies’ failure to capitalise on Napster’s success as a fatal blow to the industry; that instead of devising a way to make money from the site’s tens of millions of users, it mearly dispersed users to other file-sharing networks such as Morpheus, Limewire, iMesh and Kazaa.


Following Rowe at Number Three was Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, who sold the label for a mere $60 million in 1988, subsequently resold for $500 million the following year.

More recent entries include WEA’s unprofitable resigning of R.E.M for $80 million in 1996 at Number 13, and their decision to drop rapper 50 Cent at Number 10.

Blender magazine’s Top Ten music industry’s ‘screw ups’:

1. Major labels squash Napster

2. Decca Records A&R turns down the Beatles

3. Motown sells for a pittance


4. Indie promoters take the major labels to the cleaners

5. The RIAA sues a struggling single mom for digital piracy

6. Casablanca Records go bankrupt despite huge sales

7. Music publisher “gives away” Bob Dylan

8. Warner sell label Interscope to competitors Universal

9. “Digital-rights management” backfires

10. Columbia Records loses Alicia Keys and drops 50 Cent